Rabbis, Settlement Leaders: Prevent Demolitions, Even at Cost of Confrontation

In unprecedented call, settlers sign letter urging masses to block junctions leading to structures slated for demolition.

Fourteen rabbis and 25 secretary generals from West Bank settlements on Thursday signed a letter calling for mass protests at settlement junctions to clarify to Israel Defense Forces commanders that "any attempt to demolish buildings will involve clashes in the streets, before the act and after the retreat."

The unprecedented call was meant to recruit the public in settlements to a battle against the temporary construction freeze, declared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the end of last year as a gesture toward the Palestinians ahead of peace negotiations.

Settlers marching outside Carmei Tzur
Michal Fattal

Haaretz revealed earlier this month that Israel's Civil Administration has prepared a list of 46 illegally built settler structures in the West Bank, slated for demolition.

"Such protests, at 30 or 40 junctions, are enough to spark discussion among this country's decision makers on the future of the settlement freeze policy," the settlers wrote in the letter. "In order to wake our leaders up, we have to shake up our routine. A large scale protest on the ground is enough to apply the necessary pressure and to communicate the message that we don't agree with the freeze or with the evil execution of devastation and destruction."

The letter was to be circulated among 15,000 homes in the West Bank. The rabbis and the community leaders will also hold conferences to explain the contents of the letter to the public. The letter also said that "we call on the people to gather quickly at the exit from each settlement with the largest number of vehicles possible. After gathering at the exit, the vehicles will head toward the nearest junction to block the roadway and prevent further troops from entering the area, and prevent some of the forces from leaving smoothly."

"At the conclusion," the letter continued, "the IDF commanders sit down and summarize the events. It is very important that during this briefing it will become clear that any attempt to demolish will involve a confrontation at the main junctions leading to the area slated for demolition, before the execution and after the retreat."

According to the letter, a protest at a main junction, which includes a prayer, has two purposes: "one, to bring large forces to every junction, which is something that the forces of destruction will certainly consider next time, and two, to apply pressure on the decision makers and to express dissatisfaction with the industrial calm surrounding the freeze."

Attached to the letter is a map of the junctions where protests are to be staged.